Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What are you really seeing?

One of the best things about talking to other knitters is what I learn from it. 

I had an email from a knitter who wanted to know what size did I knit for myself in this pattern? The answer is both photos are of the same garment. The bust measurement is the same on me as it is on my mannequin. But that is probably the only place we match up. She has a smaller waist and very small hips, but her arm is a full inch and a half bigger than mine. That was quite a surprise when I first started doing photos on her. Fortunately I can remove the arms when I need to.  

The yarn used is a silk and wool blend. The fabric tends to fall against the body underneath it. But even so the sleeves are much looser on me than they are on the mannequin.  After a back and forth email conversation I think I get it now. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this is reminding me that size and shape really do matter. The garment doesn't stand on it's own, the body underneath changes the way we perceive it, in subtle ways we are often unaware of. The knitter asking the question assumed it was a different garment because it looks so different in the two photos. She felt my size and shape is more similar to hers so she wanted to check which one to knit. The real answer here is to look at the finished measurements and the schematic and compare to your own before picking a size to knit. I know visuals are powerful but they are extremely limited in the information they provide in some very critical ways. It's very important to check the numbers and not just the photo.

Monday, May 29, 2017

New Pattern - The Rosina Nunn Cardigan

I've published this one on Ravelry, Love Knitting and it will be up on Patternfish soon. 

It's a short sleeve summer cardigan with an all over Diamond Bobble Lace Stitch. The stitch pattern appears in text and chart formats. The sleeve is a classic set in version. The body is worked bottom up in a single piece to the underarms, then divided to work to the shoulders. The edging on the fronts and neckline is picked up on a circular needle and knitted out. Buttonholes are created between the edge of the garment and the band. The sample is knit in a hand dyed wool and silk blend yarn, which creates a fabric with lots of drape. It is shown with 5 cm (2 inches) of positive ease.

The yarn used in sample has been discontinued. I've searched out some other suitable yarns already. Suggested substitutes include: Fleece Artist Woolie Silk 3-ply. Lorna’s Laces Pearl or Brooks Farm Yarn Four Play. I recommend using a worsted weight yarn which knits to gauge and is a mix of wool and silk or any yarn which creates a fabric with drape.  For an up-to-date substitution list please go here, on

I've got photos taken on my mannequin and a couple of me wearing it which were taken by a friend. 

BTW, it's very helpful for me if my readers go to the pages for my patterns  on whatever site you buy patterns from and click on add to favorites or add to queue. It means more knitters see my patterns and they don't get lost at the bottom of the list when knitters do searches for specific project types. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

An Interview with...Patricia Hart

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find Patricia here on Ravelry, on Instagram here and on Facebook here.

Where do you find inspiration? 
I’m open to finding inspiration almost anywhere! Something just catches my eye and sparks an idea I'll build on. Or sometimes there’s a certain yarn that inspires me and I'll suddenly see the finished piece made from it in my mind. But often it’s just my own real desire for something specific that will inspire me to design exactly what I want, which seems faster and easier than trying to find a pattern for it. (That probably stems from being a knitter long before there was the ease of searching for patterns on Ravelry!)

What is your favourite knitting technique? 
Even after knitting for most of my life, I still feel like ANY knitting (even garter stitch) has a wondrous quality about it — that yarn can be turned into something beautiful using knitting needles — it just amazes me! But of all the techniques that I teach, my favourite is mattress stitch seaming. Whenever I demonstrate it, the class reacts with gasps and sometimes even applause, as if they’ve just seen a magic trick! For any garment requiring seaming, this technique takes it to a whole other level.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I love looking at other designers’ work! I find it exciting and motivating to see all that creativity! It can be distracting though too; so many incredible designs tempting me away from what I should be focusing on.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?  
During the design process, I knit everything from start to finish myself, making adjustments as I go. It’s not until I consider the pattern completed that it goes to the testers. I also knit most of my samples myself; it gives me another opportunity to check the final pattern again.

Did you do a formal business plan? 
My knitwear patterns evolved out of designing things for myself which were getting a great response and requests for the patterns, so I just began doing them. I haven’t done any formal plan in terms of my business, but I'd say the plan for my patterns and classes is that they inspire creativity, and make it fun for knitters to create beautiful things which make them happy.

Do you have a mentor? 
No, but I could see how invaluable that would be and I wish I did!

Do you use a tech editor? 
I haven’t used a tech editor yet. My years as a graphic designer have made me very detail oriented and meticulous, and the feedback has been that my instructions are clear and easy to follow, which is what I aim for.  My patterns so far haven’t been too complex, but I would definitely consider working with a tech editor for a more complicated design. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 
Being self employed, I don’t feel a real separation between work and life. I seem to be working on or thinking about knitting all the time anyway!  But I’m happy with the balance I have between the relative freedom of working at home, and the structure of scheduled knitting classes I teach regularly on evenings/weekends. And the solitude of working alone is balanced nicely by being among my group of student knitters in the classroom.

How do you deal with criticism? 
Almost all feedback I’ve had has been positive, but if someone doesn’t understand my instructions, I’m easily contacted and happy to address concerns personally. It’s actually helpful for me to find out if a pattern needs changing to clarify something, and then I can improve it.

What’s next for you? 
I’m really excited about some new design ideas I’m working on. I’ll also continue to offer my classes and workshops; after almost 15 years of teaching, I still love helping people learn how to knit!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hand Knit OOTD

This was my hand knit outfit of the day for my last guild meeting. It was a hot day, but cool in the venue.

I always feel my summer knits don't get out as often as I would like as summer can be very short here in Toronto. 

The patterns used here are:

The pattern is also available in two different yarns in a different gauge for Signature Yarns as:

The scarf is this one, but done in the same yarn as the top, held together with a carry along yarn:

You can see the detail in this photo:

The yarn isn't this one but is very similar:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Prince Edward County Fibrefest

Signature yarns will be at the Prince Edward County (Ontario, Canada) Fibrefest next weekend. I won't be there but Patrick will be there featuring his new Prism hand dyed Louet Lace Linen. He will also have new shades of Prism Delicato, a lace weight yarn with a gorgeous, soft hand. Both the Prism and Blue Heron yarn collections will be there, they include hand dyed Rayon, Cashmere, Merino and Silk fibres, some of these yarns will be showcased in my Robin Hunter Collection kits. If you are going, check out the Belvedere Wrap in Blue Heron cotton rayon or the organic cotton version. I've seen a number of projects done in both yarns. The wrap looks great and works really well as a summer project.

Here's a few photos of the designs we have collaborated on. To see more photos check out the Ravelry pages linked to the photos and here and here on Signature yarns. Several of the designs are available in more than one yarn base so you can choose which ones you prefer of the various samples. (one in Cotton one in Rayon Metallic)

Torquay shawl for this yarn base, on ravelry as

Festival Details:
Prince Edward County Fibre Fest
I am in booths D12-D14, in the Picton Arena
375 Picton Main Street, Prince Edward County
Adults: $5, Children 12 & Under Free

Friday, May 19, 2017

An Interview with...Shireen Nadir

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find Shireen here and here on Ravelry. Her yarns are available here.

All the photos, with the exception of the one below, are for upcoming designs.
Where do you find inspiration?
For us, everything starts with photography. We are both avid travelers and never leave home without our gear! Our photography and our travels form the base of all our colourways.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love a nice clean selvage. My favourite way to achieve this is to slip the first stitch of every row purl-wise with yarn in front, then move the yarn to the back and k1. I knit the rest of the row as normal, but I always like to have a 2-stitch garter edging so I can use the technique.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love looking at, and knitting the work of other designers! We all inspire each other, and inspiration can come from anywhere. I’ll also look at the big brands and boutiques to see what’s new on the fashion front.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Between myself and our other Blue Brick colleague, Kali, we get all the knitting done in house. She’s a machine! After the initial test knits are done my technical editor, Kathryn, will also go over the pattern to look for errors.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I wish I could say yes, but our plan changes daily. We have been learning as we go on the business front, but being a small business we can afford to be quick and nimble when needed, which I feel is a real advantage. Because of my career in advertising and background in photography, The Blue Brick has also benefited from an in-house marketing team, which really helped us get noticed. 

Do you have a mentor?
I have a muse ;) My husband Tito is the pillar of The Blue Brick. He’s game for all my crazy ideas and always backs me up 100%. He’s also a dyer, a visual artist and a photographer so we’re always bouncing ideas off each other. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Does “flying by the seat of your pants” count?

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! We couldn’t get by without her. Sometimes she’ll expand beyond just knitting to offer support and advice about the design, language, or just life. The Blue Brick and it’s extended family are all tight friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Badly, but it’s a goal :) Bringing on staff really helped but its a work in progress for sure. We have to look after each other to remember to eat well, sleep well, take down time and look after ourselves. Because we both still have day jobs, that can be a real challenge, especially with a puppy and a high-needs rescue dog in the house!

How do you deal with criticism?
I’ve been in advertising for 15 years, and everyone knows that the ability to take constructive criticism is important, and ultimately leads to a better product 9 out of 10 times. I also know that sometimes you have to own your work and follow your gut instinct, I try to bring a mixture of both these attitudes to our yarns and designs.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
At present we both have full time day jobs and work The Blue Brick in the evenings. It’s hard, but we believe in what we do and have a lot of passion for yarn and design, and it keeps us on the path. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
I think the hardest thing for us was pricing. There is a strong tendency to undersell yourself on the market, especially when you’re new, but you have to value your time, or you won’t be able to progress towards doing this as a career, if that’s your goal. Having said that, the best advice I got when I was starting to design was to offer a few patterns for free on Ravelry, so people could get a feel for my work before spending any money. Tech editing is key, even if it’s just another knitter friend who scans for mistakes you may have overlooked. The Internet can be unforgiving, so try to dot all your “i”s and cross all your “t”s before you release anything to the public. 

What’s next for you?
We’ve just released our first book “Ombré Knits” geared toward helping people understand how best to use our ombré yarns, which is what we specialize in. That was huge, and fun, and we’re definitely looking at releasing these collections annually, or bi-annually in the future. The book is visually lovely in addition to being full of patterns and that’s my goal; to create something that is enjoyable to review and browse in addition to just sharing instructions. I also want to bring more of our photography forward into our work, to further enhance that.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In the category of things which make me

There is an amazing Etsy shop which sells rocks. Not just any rocks, but household items made from felted rocks. Look closely.

Check it out here

Monday, May 15, 2017

Is It Scarfable?

Last week at a knitting event I was showing a knitter one of my designs for Signature Yarns which has been done in two different yarns. I went on to show her how the shape was scarf-able. Yes that was the word I used. I don't think I made it up? I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere but of course I have no idea where. She did have a questioning look on her face but it disappeared as I demonstrated what I meant. 

From this:

 Or this:

To this:

Simply put, it works best with rectangle shaped wraps. Fold the fabric on itself and wear it as a scarf, drop it from the long straight edge around your shoulders and wear it as a wrap or as a poncho with a shawl pin.
Later it popped into my head is scarf-able really a word? 

      According to Merriam Webster when used as a verb:

Definition of scarf

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  scoff 1 scarfed down my sandwich
  3. 2 :  snap transitive transitive 2 scarfed up the best seats
    According to the Urban Dictionary:
    you can say it anyway you want.
    it can have any meaning.
    you just simply take out a random word in a sentence and fill it in with scarf.
    it can mean something good, bad, cool, funny.
    it has multiple meanings.
    -dude your being really mean today.
    -scarf off!

    -Hey that chick is definitely scarfable!

    -scarf! i forgot my keys!

    -you need to get that dam money or i'll scarf you up 

Wow! I really do learn new things from knitting everyday.

Friday, May 12, 2017

An Interview with..Valerie Johnson

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find Valerie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
All over the place. From magazines, television shows, movies, people at the office. My eyes are always open to new ideas wherever I go.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I am a lace knitter! Which is hilarious, because when I started knitting, the first few lace projects I tried went horribly wrong, and I swore I’d never knit lace. But I guess I just love the look of it too much – because I kept going back until one project (a feather and fan scarf) and it finally “clicked”.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I’m always looking at others designers’ work – and I think it’s great to be influenced by them. I have no formal training in design, so I’ve learned new techniques by knitting projects others have designed.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I am mostly a one-woman show, but I have a few knitter friends who will pitch in a test knit if I’m in need.
Did you do a formal business plan?
Not at all. I didn’t really plan to be a “designer” at all. I just shared a few patterns I’d made, and it grew from there. Now I have 49 patterns available on Ravelry (with more in the works). But even now I don’t really consider it a business. I don’t really design for the sake of designing. My designs have almost all been to fill a need in my life (whether a garment I wanted for myself, or a gift for a friend), and I write up the pattern and share it. Whether I offer it for free or for a few dollars just depends on the complexity and how much work I’ve put into it.
Do you have a mentor?
That would be my Mom. She started knitting when she was pregnant with me. She taught me when I was four or five, though I didn’t really take it up until my 20s. She is an amazing knitter – perfect tension; there’s no technique she can’t execute! So when I have a question or problem… she’s always there with the answer.

Do you use a tech editor?
Again – that’s Mom. With almost 40 years of knitting experience under her belt, she’s handy to have look over your patterns. She’s also better with math than I am.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Admittedly, I am very lucky in that respect. I have a day job (I’m a sales writer).  So for me, the knitting/designing falls in the “life” side of that balance. I work mostly from home, and make my own schedule. I have a husband, but we have no kids, and he’s got his own hobbies to keep him occupied. It’s not usually hard to find time to work on my designs. Though I will admit, I probably neglect my housework more than I should… and I have been known to eat cereal for dinner so I can get back to the knitting.
How do you deal with criticism?
When it comes to my knitting, I haven’t had much (that I’ve seen/heard, anyway). But as I mentioned, I’m a writer… and I started my career as a journalist. Criticism is part and parcel of the field, and you don’t last long if you can’t deal with it. The main thing to remember is that no matter what you do (be it journalism or knitting), you’re never going to have everyone love you.  Someone somewhere will always have a differing opinion: Our diversity of thought is our beauty. And sometimes the critics are even right, so you can learn something new. And that’s always a good thing!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Oh how I wish! As mentioned, I have a day job. I am definitely a part-time designer. My design work mostly supports my knitting habit. I make just enough in pattern sales to keep me in yarn, patterns, needles, and notions – which to me, seems like a pretty good deal.
While I occasionally dream about designing full-time, I think I’d miss my day job too. I consider myself very lucky that I’m able to do both!

What’s next for you? 
I’ve got quite a bit in the works right now, actually.

I recently had to give up my car, so on the few days I do go into the office, I have a long train commute. Perfect for sock knitting though!  So I’m working on a series of sock patterns each named after a station along commute.

I’ve got a cardigan pattern which is mostly complete; I just need to work on the numbers for the additional sizes.

I’ve also recently started a new shrug/shawl design, which I’m very excited about.